Convincing the C-Suite

Following my recent blog on the barriers to embedding social media within an organisation, I made the offer that anyone who wanted to share their story, and maybe give a different view, could do so anonymously on this blog.

Here’s a guest post from an HR professional telling a slightly different story to the one that I did…

‘It’s just so superficial’.  Said the MD to the HR type.  ‘I don’t see how it is relevant to us’.

Yes, you’ve got it; this conversation was about social media.  I’m writing this blog anonymously, mainly to avoid being fired.  I have a big mortgage you see.

This is the story of my so far futile attempts to convince our C Suite of the benefits of social media to them as leaders, to them as individuals, to our business.  So far, I have heard every dumb reason why we don’t need or want social.  (Klaxon alert).

  • It’s only going to interest younger employers.
  • I haven’t got time for it.
  • It’s intrusive.
  • I don’t see it as a main part of our internal communications.  Newsletters and roadshows are better for our sort of employees.
  • Yammer is a security risk.
  • If we give people access to social media sites then they will time waste.
  • Social networking is for personal not work.  If it is social that is what it means.
  • I wrote a blog once before and it didn’t work.
  • If we give people access to twitter then they may tweet inappropriate material about our company.  Said by our IT DIRECTOR.

And here is my current personal fave:

  • It’s irritating.

So I think that is pretty much the complete list, don’t you?

I’m guessing that the readers of Meryvn’s blog won’t need to have the benefits of social media explained to them.  If you’re reading blogs and tweets you get it already.  But how do we get other people to see it?  Right now I am taking some inspiration from Doug Shaw.  I am proceeding until apprehended.

We got Yammer up and running by just launching it, although the IT department aren’t speaking to me because we didn’t ask their permission.  Everyone now has access to Twitter and LinkedIn, although Facebook is a battle for another day.  And yes, I did have to throw my teddy out of my pram to get this.  I had to point out the absolute obvious.  If you want to tweet something rude about your employer, you can do it on your smartphone.  If you want to go on Facebook you can do it from your smartphone.  If you want to time waste you can do it on your smartphone.  At your desk, in the canteen…even in the toilet if you want to. Deal with it.  Or deal with the individual.  You think your employees don’t want it? So why did we get 200 of our employees joining Yammer in a matter of days? Perhaps you should go over and take a look at what they are talking about.

We now have a blog too, and a Pinterest page, and a twitter account. No one has actually contributed to the blog yet, and the twitter account only has 63 followers.  But we are getting there, we will get there, one new Yammer comment at a time.  As Mervyn himself said in a recent blog, it’s evolution not revolution.

So here is the rest of my rant to the C Suite.  You don’t have time not to do it.  You are missing a massive opportunity to talk directly to the people that work for you.  Turning up twice a year with a PowerPoint presentation with the great strategy from on high isn’t internal communications.  It is talking at people.  Communication implies dialogue.  You want to know what your people think? Get on twitter, write a blog, post on Yammer.  It will give you a little bit more real time information than that annual survey you get your wallet out for every year.  If none of those interest you?  What about staying in touch with your industry, making contacts, your personal brand, improving your job prospects?

Or maybe I’ll just do what Perry Timms does when they say they don’t have the time for it.  Just wish people well in keeping up to date in their careers without it.


 …Is this similar to your experience?? Share in the comments…or offer your own guest post, either named or anonymously…
Here are some comments from Twitter…
CSuite tweet1
CSuite tweet2
..and try this excellent graphic about Alexander Graham Bell from Jane Bozarth, author of Social Media for Trainers, if they still need convincing…

Hey Gurus, Leave those C – Suites Alone

















(many thanks to the wonderful illustrator, animator and cartoonist Simon Heath for this graphic)

Q: What’s the biggest barrier to embedding social media in your business
A: Getting buy in from the C Level

How many times have you heard that over the last 3 or 4 years? Loads of times, and it’s still being trotted out. Last week I was at a Digital Shoreditch event where a distinguished panel (of suppliers who also happen to be industry commentators) said much the same thing.

You need to get buy in from the C Level. Make the business case. Show them ROI. They sign the cheques and need to see proof.

I call bullsh*t!

In my experience most of the C suite are just fine with this. A lot of them like the online celebrity status it brings them, the opportunity to talk about their business (and have it talked about) and they place trust in the managers they appoint to make the right calls on usage, content and guidelines. Social networking platforms are conversation channels – no-one ever called the C suite a barrier to putting in a phone system, did they?

Middle managers are another thing entirely. In common with a number of owner managers in smaller businesses, many that I have met see it as a hindrance. They don’t like the transparency and immediacy it brings, the hierarchical flattening that comes with it, and the fact that those they manage know more about it (and are more adept at it) than they are.

They often have no time and little inclination and wrongly fear that their charges will spend too much time on it and will therefore fail to deliver the outcomes for which the manager is accountable.

So what’s the main barrier then?

It’s the structure. If you’ve got a traditional post-industrial age corporate structure of owners/directors supported by the usual hierarchies of management (senior managers, middle managers, junior managers) then the line managers who have the responsibility and accountability for ensuring things get done inevitably like to manage processes. That’s why e-mail is so prevalent… it’s all about managing activity and giving direction, with its cc capability giving visibility to the managing and direction.

Not everyone likes to learn new tricks that take them out of their comfort zone, especially when they have a position of responsibility.

So if you want to influence them here are three points to take into account next time you need to jump the barrier.

If you make people use it they’ll use it badly. You can’t force it, mandate it or set KPIs for it else they will do it wrong. Its conversation and you want online conversationalists. Broadcast messages are the preserve of those who don’t understand conversation.

You can train people in how to best use the platforms but if they don’t naturally get it then it won’t happen for them. It starts with hiring people who are comfortable using them.

It’s evolution not revolution. From letter to phone to telegraph to fax to e-mail to mobile, business always adapts to shifting ways of communicating…particularly when their customers and clients start communicating with them using those ways.

What’s the cost of NOT doing it? How many times do you hear ‘we’re not ready for that?’ or ‘it’s a fad that won’t take off’? Most businesses learn the lesson when it hits them in the pocket…the question isn’t why should you use the platforms but what are you missing by not using them.

If you think you’re not ready then don’t bury your head in the sand, because I’ll tell you who are ready…current, former and lapsed customers/clients, and current, past and future employees. And no doubt a lot of your competitors too.

And remember, anyone who says ‘we pay people to work, not to play around on social media’ has little understanding of how the platforms work, how people use them, and how they can be used to positive effect in the business…so show them.

There’s no better way than to start with the following slides from Paul Taylor at Bromford Group, a business in the social housing sector that gets it. Maybe because they have a CEO who favours hiring people with a digital footprint because ‘all future leaders will need a positive digital footprint…without the ability to communicate across all platforms they won’t survive as credible leaders

As Paul says in his latest blogThe medium is irrelevant. The conversation is everything